1. Be Timely.
The less lead time you give your supervisor, the less likely he or she is to appreciate your need for time off, especially if it's a popular request period (e.g. the holidays). As soon as you know you will need days off, create a timeline so that your request is not too early (it can be difficult for managers to anticipate staffing needs 6 months ahead of time) and not too late (suddenly asking "Can I take off tomorrow?" is a pretty bad idea in most corporate settings). Personally, I like to give my supervisors verbal notice three weeks in advance and then follow up with a written email a week later. For longer vacation or leave periods, I suggest a longer notice period so coverage can be arranged without too much hassle.
2. Be Specific.
For example, state "I would like to take the following days off in the month of __________," and then list the days. Don't say "I was wondering if I could take some time off next week." What does that mean? A half day? Three days? The more specific your request, the easier it is for your supervisor to assess the vacation calendar and see if your request will work.
3. Be Flexible if You Can, and Honest if You Can't.
When phrasing your request, let your supervisor know if you'll be able to change the dates or come in to the office if a client emergency comes up. It may seem counter-intuitive to indicate that you're available on your days off, but doing so reinforces your commitment to your work and will likely get you noticed as a team-player. If you will be completely unavailable on the days you plan to be out, make a note of that in the request, with a simple statement such as "please note that I will have limited access to Internet/Blackberry access during these days."
4. Be Brief.
The fact that your long-lost twin sister has been discovered by Oprah and is flying halfway across the world to meet you for the only 24 hours when she can be in town may be of consequence to you, but honestly, bogging your supervisor down with extraneous facts is unlikely to help the outcome of your request and may even hurt it, if she doesn't think your momentous occasion is as important as you do. Given that you're familiar with your company's vacation policy and know what time off you are entitled to, there is no need to plead your case in the initial request. Simply identify the time that you would like to take off and be prepared in case the supervisor does come back with follow-up questions or a response that may require you to provide more information.
5. Be Prepared.
In your request, note how you plan to cover for your position during your absence. Mention that you have spoken to your team members, will arrange for coverage or will be available via cell phone/Internet etc. This detail will again reinforce your commitment to your job and let your employer know that you've considered the impact that your absence will make, underscoring your value to the team. Remember, if you can be absent without being missed, then what benefit does your presence bring to the company?
6. Be Positive.
Sometimes, you can't take the days off that you'd like to. Building a career means making trade-offs, and accepting a denied vacation request is one of them. If this happens, don't pout, sulk or get angry- at least not until you're at home! Be gracious, understanding and above all polite, even if you're incredibly displeased. Someday you may be the person forced to tell people that the company needs them to work over a holiday or during an off week, and a positive reaction will communicate to your superiors that you understand the pressures of management (and perhaps are ready to handle them!) and make them more likely to consider your next request more favorably.
A suggested template for an email requesting time off:
I would like to request the following days off in March;
Monday, March 12th
Tuesday, March 13th and
the week of Monday, March 26th through Friday, March 30th.
I've arranged for coverage within my team and will be available via telephone and e-mail on the 12th and the 13th. Please note that I plan to be out of town the week of the 26th-30th, however I can be flexible with the dates requested. Please let me know if you have any concerns or anticipate any issues regarding my request.
What are your tips for drafting a successful vacation request?